Bezbaruah, Nandita; Ph.D.
College of Human Development and Education; North Dakota State University October 2009
Impact of Using Celebrity Spokes-Characters to Market Fruits and Vegetables to Parents and Children
Major Professor: Dr. Ardith Brunt
The prevalence of overweight especially among children has become a major public health issue. Researchers found in 2003-2006, 16.3% of children and adolescents aged 2-19 years were and 31.9% were overweight. Overweight children and adolescents are at greater risk for health problems during their youth and as adults. Diets with low-enegy density and high nutrient content have been associated with less weight gain. A strategy to prevent weight gain in children and adolescents is to increase consumption of fruits and vegetables since most fruits and vegetables are foods that have high nutrient density. In spite of the several health benefits, intake of fruits and vegetables among children and adolescents in the United States remains below the recommended level.
Advertising and marketing play a crucial role in the preference and consumption of food and beverages, especially for children. Therefore, celebrity spokes-characters have been used to market these products to children. There had been some allegations that celebrity spokes-characters had been used to market unhealthy food products to children. Following such allegations, Nickelodeon network has been restricting the use of their licensed characters on packages of non-nutrient dense foods. As part of the new policy celebrity spokes-characters including Dora the Explorer and Sponge Bob Square Pants, are seen on packages of fruits and vegetables. The move behind this initiative is to encourage children to consume more fruits and vegetables.
The main purpose of the present study is to examine the impact of using celebrity spokes-characters to market fruits and vegetables to parents and children. The study included 233 parents and 218 third and fourth grade students from four schools. Survey and experimental study methods were utilized to examine the effect of celebrity spokes-characters on fruit and vegetable intake among children. Family likes and dislikes was the leading factor that determined purchasing decisions of parents/guardians in regard to fruits and vegetables. In an experimental study the presence of a celebrity spokes-character significantly increased intake of green beans among children. Children ranked taste as the leading factor that was considered in choosing whether or not to consume fruits and vegetables or not.